American idol started its fourteenth season just a few weeks ago. We shall all be treated to five months of constant refrains of “I want this so bad” and “Song choice is so important.” (I am rolling my eyes as I write this). People would rather delude themselves about their singing ability than get a real job. This is not a post about American Idol but the start of the show and the second of the frequent phrases triggered a thought: song choice might be important for American Idol contestants, but word choice is even more important for writers. Before you start rolling your eyes at me for such a cliché thought, please understand that this thought came in the very narrow context of Stephen King’s ‘The Shining.’

Some forgotten number of years ago, when I was not as obsessive about reading a book before I saw its move adaptation, I watched Stanley Kubrick’s take on The Shining. It was – and still is in many respects – a creepy rendition, but on a second (more discerning?) view, I found it rather corny and dated. One scene, however, is creepy to this day: Danny’s repetitive “Redrum.” Even before the mirror reveals what redrum really means, the croakiness of his voice creates goose bumps. While such an effect wouldn’t work in a book, the precognitive scenes are just as chilling, especially considering Danny’s young age. To have to deal with such horrors at any age would be difficult, but at such a young age . . .

A person could make a good argument that Stephen King’s novels are creepy by nature, and that Joey was right to put the book in the freezer. I would not disagree with such an argument, having said something similar on twitter, but it goes beyond this being a horror novel and extends instead to the very nature of the real meaning of the word. Murder is more bone chilling even, than kill slay, or any other word meaning ‘to die.’ For instance, the most chilling moment in Crime and Punishment was not the moment where Raskolnikov kills the old woman, but rather when he was called out as a murderer on the street.

I enjoyed the novel, but that is not to say that all of the words in The Shining were perfect. The version of The Shining that I own contains an introduction by Stephen King in which he says some of the writing sounds cocky and grating to him. I think that is most present in Jack’s relationship with Wendy. There have been extensive troubles in their marriage, but still, he certainly wasn’t very repentant. As a whole I found Jack to be a deplorable character, his only redemption coming from a few lines in which he thinks that the reason he called to taunt Ullman was because he could sense that there was something wrong in the hotel and he was trying to find a way of being forced out. I cannot wait to read Doctor Sleep. Very interest to see what happens with Danny.

Speaking of cockiness, I will own to some of my own when I first read the book. Feeling may dim with time, so I could be misremembering, but I’m sure I told myself that the book was not that scary. Perhaps it was only self-delusion on the first read through, but I wonder if my own visceral response to the novel this time around was simply because I am older and better read now. All the better for understand nuances, my dear! It’s a learning thing, and I’m happy to do it.

One thought on “REDRUM: The Power of Words (Stephen King’s The Shining)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s